Normally, when on holidays, there just isn’t enough time to visit museums, churches and other ‘sights of interest’ between our food and drink focused days. However, given the amount of time we are travelling, we found the time to stop by the Grand Palace in Bangkok and it was well worth it.
Is Bangkok the greatest destination city in the world? We discuss our experience there in 4 key categories… food, accomodation, shopping and intangibles.
He says: “The best street food we’ve had in Asia thus far. The carmalised sugar coated grilled bananas and potatoes for 10 baht per bag were ridiculously tasty. Our only forray into upscale dining had mixed results. The vibe and service were both awesome at Eat Me, but it seemed the flavours in the food (and cocktails) seemed muted. My only theory is they consciously toned things down a few notches to minimise disturbing the palates of the innumberable westerns in the restaurant. Overall, the food in Bangkok is definitely awesome, but for me simple and authentic is the way to go.”
She says: « The bananas were amazing and so were the sweet potatoes (same treatment as the bananas but crunchier) but the only time « we » got them for tha cheap was when I was not present… However, street food in Bangkok is fascinating because of its diversty. You can find anything, from exotic snacks to vietnamese style soups and curries. Is it the best food I have ever eaten? No. Is it the most exciting street food we’ve encountered so far? Definitely.
He says: “After paying less than $2 per night in Laos a couple nights before arriving in Bangkok, sticker shock set in immediately as rooms were 10-20 times more expensive. But for the price comes all of the modern ammenities that make you look forward to getting back to your room at night – wifi, cable, A/C, a toilet you can actually sit on as opposed to a hole. Please, please, please do not stay on Th Khao San unless you want to be overcharged for everything and only speak English (with maybe a little French thrown in). Venture into Silom and make full use of the outrageously cheap taxis, metros and skytrains. It’s well worth it.”
She says: Bangkok is a big, cosmopolitan and pretty westernized city. Hence, accomodation here can be seen by many backpackers as overpriced. We did not do the typical Kao San Road guesthouse thing as we wanted to use Bangkok as a way to leave the backpacking trail for a while.While we may have paid close to $10 each for dorm beds and $35 for a (great) double, I still believe that our strategy paid off. We found one of the best hotels of our trip, somewhere between hotel and hostel with great service, older, mostly Asian guests and great décor. I guess this is the one good thing about Bangkok’s backpackers’ area: it leaves the rest of the city to the other travellers.
He says: “Seriously, if you enjoy any aspect of shopping – whether it’s hunting through piles of random bric-a-brac to find a bargain in an outdoor market or cruising the endless labyrinths of air conditioned corredors in luxury malls and department stores – this city has it and in large numbers. Prices in general are cheap, but don’t be surprised if your spending spree leaks from debit to credit card if you spend any longer than a couple days.”
She says: To be honest, I have always been a bit judgemental towards people who would go to Thailand and come back with nothin but shopping tales. Well… I am one of them. Shopping in Bangkok isn’t only (or necessarily) very, very cheap but it is a really, realy fun thing to do. We went to Champasak, the largest market in Southeast Asia and again, the diversity of items available makes it truly entertaining: as soon as you get bored of one thing, another one comes along. And things are very nice as well. The malls are the other shopping option in Bangkok. Air conditionned and actually ful of locals, which makes it very interesting: family shopping for grumpy teenageers, couple going out with the guy carrying his girlfriend’s designer bag for her, groups of twentysomething our for dinner. I have to admit it: shopping in Bangkok is great and I would go back anything just for that.
He says: “I didn’t know what to expect from this city… it seems some of the more risque aspects have created the two obligatory ‘love it or hate it’ camps and I wasn’t into which I would fall. In reality, I think there is much to love about Bangkok, regardless of your opinion on the sex trade. Even if you do find yourself sauntering down Soi Patpong 1 one night, you’d probably be surprised at what you’ll find. I’d even argue it’s much less shocking and much better regulated than what goes on much closer to home. In the end, I really took a liking to the city, and felt a bit guilty to love it and leave it after such a short stay.”
She says: “No matter what they say about the Bangkok scams, Thai people are extremely friendly and their attitude towards foreigners makes a huge difference in your experience of the city. Yes, some people will randomly approach you and try to help you to do pretty random things, usually with the intent of getting you into a tuktuk heading somewhere where they’ll earn a commission. Trust your instinct; if a guy offers to help you cross the street, it’s probably fishy. But when you are unable to communicate with the waitress at a restaurant or when you are standing on a street corner, scratching your head as to which way to go, it is very possible that Thai people will approach you and offer some help and this makes the city truly enjoyable. Contrary to the popular belief, avoiding scams while not shutting out the locals is still a very easy thing to do in Bangkok and it makes it a very enjoyable and human city.”
Yes, after all the Cambodia drama, we decided to skip Kratie, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat and Phnom Pehn and just cross the border into Thailand (across the Mekong from Vientiane).
It took us a few hours in a minivan (which ended up smuggling suscipicious merchandise across the cambodian border and using us as a cover while making deliveries in the suburbs of Pakse, but that is another story altogether), one night bus, one ride across the Lao-Japanese Friendship bridge and one night train, but we made it to Bangkok.
The best of Bangkok? The Chatuchak weekend market, the largest market in Southest Asia, and the street food. People rave about street food and food courts in Singapore, but what about Bangkok?
We love it and can’t wat to come back.
By the way, any idea what’s in that picture?